As summer approaches, it’s time to start thinking about ways to make the most of Austin’s beautiful freshwater rivers and lakes. From the more peaceful experience of stand-up paddleboarding, to the more adrenaline-filled wakeboarding, there’s something for everyone.
Aside from the traditional water sports, there is a lesser-known new breed of fun on the water. You may already be familiar with the Ironman-looking Flyboard that allows the user to hover over the water, but that’s not the only type of equipment available for hydro-propulsion activities. At Fly Lake Austin, they have two additional models of equipment, the Jetovator and Freedom Flyer.
I’d previously heard of the Flyboard and seen some pretty amazing videos online. With how fun it looked, of course it was on my bucket list. When I found out that Flyboarding was available on Lake Austin, I signed up without hesitation. Less than a week later on a Sunday afternoon, I found myself at the boat ramp under the Pennybacker Bridge under Texas Highway 360 about to plunge into 65-degree water.
Fly Lake Austin provided full-length wetsuits, and I brought my own dive booties (nice to have but not necessary). During warmer months, I would opt for board shorts and a rash guard instead. I’m sure a bikini would suffice, but I’d rather spare myself the humiliation from bearing it all in the event of a wipe out.
If I had to choose just one, I would go with the Freedom Flyer. Having said that, I’m stoked I got to try all three. It may be checked off my bucket list now, but I have a feeling I’ll find my way back to Fly Lake Austin and the Flyboard, Jetovator and Freedom Flyer.
Before entering the wake zone, I sat on the back of the Sea-Doo and strapped into the Flyboard. From a feel standpoint, it’s not much different than strapping into a snowboard or wakeboard. The Flyboard was the easiest to get out of the water initially, but the hardest to maintain a good hover. You really begin to appreciate how Tony Stark felt the first time he tried on his Ironman prototype. Locking my knees out was one of the more challenging aspects, especially since I’m trained to keep an athletic stance. The stabilization and balance come straight from the ankles, and even the slightest bend in the knees will have you bailing into the water. That being said, it’s better to bend a knee and lean to the side than to back flop and get a flood of water headed straight up your nose.
This motorcycle-like contraption was the most frustrating of the three. I almost gave up after multiple attempts because I just couldn’t seem to find my groove and figure out how to get out of the water. Eventually I managed to find the sweet spot and make it fly. Once I did that, it was game over. I was zooming all over the lake, leaning like I was racing in the MotoGP World Championships.
The first key to finding the sweet spot lies in your weight distribution, specifically bending your knees and leaning forward like you’re riding a motorcycle. The second key is figuring out the correct timing to pull the handles up. Unlike the Flyboard, the Jetovator and Freedom Flyer have handles that control the direction of the jets. Having flown fixed-wing aircraft, it felt similar to pulling on the yoke to pitch the nose of the plane upward. The last key to riding the Jetovator like a pro is being able to accomplish the first and second key simultaneously. Then, it’s magic!
This is a brand new option that Fly Lake Austin has to offer. Instead of requiring an individual to stand, the Freedom Flyer is a chair, and the design even enables paraplegics to participate in the fun. For me, this was the easiest of the three to get into the air. I think that using the Jetovator first gave me a leg up because the handle function is similar on the Freedom Flyer. It felt like a roller coaster at Six Flags where your feet hang off (minus the loops)—by far and wide, this was the most exhilarating. I was able to use my body weight to lean side to side resulting in some super fun swing action, essentially creating my own roller coaster ride.